A Neat Makeover for Engine Co. #2

June 16, 2014

I took a moment to speak with Mark, Treasurer of the all-volunteer Fairmount Engine Company #2. This volunteer firehouse was the recipient of a “Neat Makeover” – here’s what Mark had to say about the way Neat changed his job.

My life before Neat

Stepping into the role of Treasurer for a non-profit volunteer fire company was a daunting task for me. I had held other positions within the organization, but never one that had as much importance. The resigning Treasurer made sure I was trained, pointed me to the filing cabinets containing our records, and my official responsibilities began.

As my first tax season approached, I had to take on the task of going through records kept before my term in office. I can still remember opening up the “Treasurer Filing Cabinet” for the first time and seeing stacks of bills and statements in envelopes, out of envelopes, in order, out of order, rubber banded, paper clipped, stapled, and piled. I found what I needed, and survived my first tax season… but I can’t say it was easy.

As my first year in office progressed, I swore I wouldn’t let my records fall into disarray. I would keep them organized and accessible for anyone who needed them! Soon December was upon us… and I remembered that solemn promise as I rummaged through my box of records, completely devoid of any organization. I knew all my records were in it, but God help me if someone needed something quickly.

I managed to improve upon my box method by organizing bills and statements into piles, and by signing up for electronic delivery of those statements where possible. Still, my records were largely unorganized and inaccessible. Some were in my box at home, some were in my desk at work. Others were saved electronically on a zip drive, and others still were saved on the laptop assigned to me by the firehouse. It wasn’t the end of the world, but I didn’t feel like I was living up to my job responsibilities. Looking around, I realized others were having the same issue. There are filing cabinets galore, all filled with documents and paperwork concerning differnet aspects of a firehouse, and all important to someone.

I remember thinking, “there has to be a better way”.

Sitting at home watching TV with my wife, a revelation came to me in the form of a commercial advertising Neat. What is this “Neat?” I said aloud. Soon the commercial explained and I was more than a bit excited. I had a scanner in hand within a week, after reading the directions I was up and running. A few hours of work, and all my records from the year had been scanned. With our subscription to the cloud, and the ability to sync devices, I could now access all our records online, from our computer, and even on my phone!

Setting up our account was a breeze and getting the appropriate people access was simple. Now instead of rummaging through my box of paperwork, I can simply open the appropriate folder in our Neat Account and sort through any documents I want. I can run reports to determine costs associated with specific vendors. I can share files with other members of the firehouse in a heartbeat.

We have many more documents and records from years past to scan, but I know we will get there soon. Neat guarantees us quick and easy access to all our records for the foreseeable future, and I can only imagine the sigh of relief future Treasurers will exhale when they see this organized and easy-to-maintain system!


Home Renovations and Neat

April 30, 2014

Settling into a new (old) home, one of the first things you start to notice is just how much work needs to be done. And sometimes it’s not the obvious things that turn into big home renovation projects. Here’s a story of what happened with my home, and how having Neat helped make order out of chaos.

When I had my home inspection, one of the many things that the inspector called out was that my furnace was “short-cycling” – meaning that it would run, but shut itself off before it was supposed to. Typically, furnaces do this when they overheat – the furnace shuts off, and the fan continues to circulate air while it cools down. The home inspector suggested I get a pro to take a look at it, and that it could be as simple as needing a new filter. It was a low priority for me – the house was warm enough, and it didn’t seem like a big deal. There was plenty of other home renovation work I could “look forward” to.

After buying the house, I changed the filter as suggested (change your furnace filters regularly, it’s easy!).  The furnace still short-cycled. And then things got interesting. I came across an ad for a good deal on a furnace tune-up ahead of winter – this seemed like the perfect, inexpensive opportunity to have someone come check things out. I made some calls, got a tech out, and within about thirty seconds of seeing the furnace he said, and I quote, “whoever did this should be slapped.”

Not exactly what you want to hear when you own the thing.

Long story short, the furnace was in good shape, but was only feeding 3 vents where it should have been feeding about 7. So it was making more hot air than it could distribute, causing it to overheat, and basically burning itself out way ahead of its expected lifespan. And, as they put it, when the furnace goes I’d still have to replace the ductwork.

Hello, first major home renovation project!

This is where Neat really came into play. I started collecting estimates on the replacement ductwork, and each time I was able to scan the paperwork and organize it instantly. When it came time to comparing renovation costs, it was as easy as popping into my Neat account and going to the folder I had made for the project. I had each estimate right there and could easily switch between them. I also had every business card I’d collected from the contractors, so once I made the decision it was easy to contact the right person.

And so here I am, with a couple of fellas happily cutting holes into my walls and floors as I write this. Neat can’t really help with this part of the job, but it made it a lot easier to stay organized enough to get here – and know I made the right choice. Plus when I get the receipt, it’ll go right into my folder for this project. Then one day I can look back at all the money I sunk into this place and cry. But at least I’ll stay warm in the meantime!

Tax Time with Neat

April 12, 2014

It’s that time of the year again, when I realize that my taxes are due way too soon and I have done almost nothing to prepare.  But it’s ok – because the little I have done to prepare for tax time, I’ve done with Neat. And that makes all the difference.

Because I’ve gotten into the habit of scanning any important mail into Neat as soon as I open it, I already have all of my various tax forms and documents digitized and organized. Which means that when I finally do get around to firing up TurboTax and filing my taxes, I’ll have all of the necessary information right there at my fingertips. I don’t scan all of my receipts yet – I know that I should, and I’m working on building that into a habit as well. But even though I don’t keep all my receipts digitized, Neat helps take the stress out of doing my taxes.

With all of my mortgage documents, W2 forms, and other important tax papers in one place, I’m able to complete my taxes in record time. Plus I never have to worry about losing any vital documents while procrastinating. This is a far cry from my old routine, where I would generally wait until the last minute to file my taxes and then spend hours frantically searching my house for the “safe place” I’d stashed my tax paperwork. It’s amazing how much of an impact even a little bit of organization can make on efficiency and productivity, and this is a great example. Just knowing where to find your files when you need them, with Neat, helps make things easier.

I’m not the most organized person in the world, and I wouldn’t even consider myself to be a Neat power-user, but the level of effort I put in and the results I get back are right for me. Even a minimal routine with Neat helps to save me time, and it reduces the hassles and headaches of a paper-based life. It’s something I’m often reminded of, but never so much as I am during tax time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get these taxes done before the 15th!

A Digital Owner’s Manual Makes my Car Neat

March 8, 2014

Aside from my new house, one of my most prized possessions is my 2007 Jeep Wrangler, affectionately known as Jeepsy. Jeepsy and I have been through a lot together, including a memorable 1,700-mile round trip to Prince Edward Island and back about a year after I got her. There’s something about driving around in a jeep with the roof off that turns road trips into legitimate vacations – the trip becomes part of the experience, instead of just a means to the destination.

As anyone who has owned a Jeep before can attest to – these cars have a lot of moving parts. While the same can be said of any vehicle, it’s particularly true for the toy-like Wranglers. Configurable tops (both hard and soft), removable doors, and a host of after-market customizable parts make the Wrangler something like the Lego set of the auto world.

Add in the routine maintenance any vehicle requires, and it’s easy to see why my owner’s manual is hundreds of pages thick. And I found myself paging to the same things time and time again – how do I reset the sensor after changing the oil again? How do I zip these plastic windows back in place again? Can I replace just the bulb from the taillight after backing it into a mailbox or do I need to replace the whole lighting fixture? What size windshield wipers do I need?

Rather than continue to thumb my owner’s manual into a dog-eared mess, I decided to take things into the Digital Age and make them Neat. I found a PDF version of my car’s manual online (most manufacturers provide this, and a simple search should get you accurate results.) Then, using NeatCloud’s convenient email-in feature, I simple emailed that PDF into Neat. Now I have it whenever I need it (I can access it on my phone any time) and – best of all – I can kiss the table of contents/index goodbye and simply use Neat’s built-in search functions to quickly find exactly what I’m looking for.

Digitized manuals are nothing new, but keeping them in Neat just makes things so much nicer. I’ve made a habit of keeping all my major appliance manuals in Neat, along with Jeepsy’s owner manual, and now I know that whenever I need to find some info on my important products and devices, it’s only a search away.


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